Woodcote Green Nurseries & Garden Centre.

Used to live in Sutton back in the late 1990's and so would visit the garden centres around Woodcote for our plants. There's always been a few of them, ranging from the mad animal one that has since gone, to Woodcote Nurseries that just dealt in plants. We'd buy a few plants, and go home. But then garden centres discovered cafes. They'd put a small one in the corner, and customers would linger, perhaps spend a bit more. The cafes always were, and generally still are, small affairs stuck in a corner.

But have you been to Woodcote recently? I was there the other day and it is mad. The place is obviously doing very well indeed, and has expanded on the back of sucking money out of old people. I wouldn't be surprised if on a good day their till takings didn't equal a medium ASDA.

Why? Well for one the café is now huge. It must have as many covers [tables to you and me] as Reigate. And Reigate is full of cafes and restaurants. Really, it's that big. I got lost walking around. The café is also way better than any garden centre café has a right to be, breakfast in particular looks good. Steak and eggs for breakfast? In a garden centre? Well, yes it does. There's also a bakers, grocers and butchers in store. Not little places, but full sized shops. You could, without any effort, do your weekly food shop there and eat very well indeed. Actually the food section is better than Marks and Spencers in either Reigate or Redhill.

Gift shop? Yes. Camping shop? Yes. Sheds? Yes. Garden tools? Yes. Massive aquarium stock? Yes.

Clothes? Big, big section. But for old people; Tweed jackets and basic Regatta rain wear. People my age and above. Which isn't a bad thing. Quality beats fashion, and these days Tweed has appeal.

Aha! Bet they don't do plants anymore. Well they do, which these days is indeed odd for a garden centre as they tend to be more akin to DiY stores than anything else. And not some token section to keep the council planners happy either. Their garden section is bloomin' massive.

The whole place must have a retail floor space equal to that of the Belfry in Redhill. Whoever owns it must by now be a multi-millionaire, which isn't bad from a few plants is it? It wouldn't surprise me at all if somebody told me that Woodcote takes £100m a year at the tills. Really, if you're over 50 and have not been, please go. And this isn't a dig at elderly people; I'm in that age bracket and can recognise something that appeals to us Saga category people when I see it. I'd not take my kids as there's nothing there for people under 30, but I'd happily take my wife there for breakfast or lunch and a bit of retail therapy. And do you know what? I don't think she'd mind at all.